February 19, 2021

The Georgia legislature met three days this week and has now completed 19 legislative days, so we are almost to the halfway point of the 40-day session.  They will reconvene on Monday, Feb. 22, and are scheduled to meet all five days next week.

Most of our time this week was filled with online monitoring or attending numerous House and Senate committee and subcommittee meetings.  The House Public Safety Committee passed HB 247 to eliminate the “loophole” that allows first offenders of the distracted driving law to bring in proof of obtaining a cell phone holder in order to have their charges dropped.  The House Energy Subcommittee had a hearing on HB 449, which revises the “Ga. Utility Facility Protection Act,” and they will meet on it again Monday, Feb. 22, at 8:00 a.m.  The Senate Regulated Industries Committee held a hearing on Sen. Beach’s horse racing proposals (SB 30 and SR 53) earlier in the week, and they heard Sen. Mullis’ sports betting bill (SB 142) for 1½ hours yesterday.  The Senate Finance Committee passed Chairman Hufstetler’s bill that would create a Joint House/Senate Council to review Georgia’s tax and revenue structure (SB 148).

The Senate Ethics Committee and the House Special Committee on Election Integrity have been assigned dozens of bills from Republicans and Democrats dealing with changes to election law.  The Senate Ethics Committee passed out five bills yesterday morning including SB 67, which requires submitting ID when requesting an absentee ballot, and SB 89 which creates the position of chief elections assistance officer within the Secretary of State’s office. The House Special Committee on Election Integrity Chairman, Rep. Barry Fleming, presented his comprehensive election reform bill (HB 531) to that committee in a lengthy meeting yesterday afternoon.  Committee hearings on HB 531 have been going since 9:30 this morning and are continuing this afternoon.  Chairman Fleming has indicated he intends to have hearings on Monday, too.

Yesterday, the House passed a bill that would allow drivers to mount a cell phone holder onto a vehicle’s windshield as long as it doesn’t obstruct vision (HB 165) and legislation clarifying the three-foot buffer required for passing bicyclists (HB 353).  The House also passed a bill giving three weeks of paid parental leave to state employees and teachers (HB 146).

Legislation introduced this week includes a pay increase for Magistrate Judges (HB 488) which was assigned to the House Judiciary Committee, a bill regarding the delivery of vaping products (SB 199) which was assigned to the Senate Finance Committee, and a bill lifting the restrictions on direct sales of electric vehicles (HB 460) which was assigned to the House Motor Vehicles Committee.  Sen. Mullis is the primary sponsor, along with a mix of other Republicans and Democrats, on yet another Senate bill dealing with horse racing (SB 212) that will be read and assigned to a committee on Monday.  An identical horse racing bill (HB 538) was dropped in the House as well, with Rep. Ron Stephens listed as the sole sponsor.

On Monday, Governor Kemp signed the FY ’21 supplemental budget.  Governor Kemp held a press conference Tuesday to introduce his bill (HB 479) that has bipartisan support and would revise the state’s 150-year-old citizen’s arrest law.  The Governor’s floor leader filed legislation Wednesday that would require legislators to appropriate fees and fines to the purpose for which they were collected (HB 511).  Yesterday, the Governor held a press conference with Dr. Kathleen Toomey, Commissioner for the Department of Public Health, to announce four locations across the state that will be mass vaccination sites.

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